Creating and Deploying Assessments: Recommended Practices for Instructors

Blackboard's assessment engine allows instructors to create and deploy online tests to students.  There are a number of available options that can control the ways in which students are able to take a test and reduce the incidence of cheating; however, more restrictive tests often result in more technical issues.  To minimize the chance of problems and give students the best environment for success, we recommend the following:

  • Do not use the Force Completion option.  This causes a student to not be able to reenter the test if something happens to kick them out.
  • Use the All at Once presentation mode rather than One at a Time.  If you have 30 students taking a 50 question test, and the questions are One at a Time, the system will be loading 1500 pages as opposed to 30.  That's quite a difference in terms of server load. (If the page is slow to reload, students will often click on the "next question" arrow multiple times and this will cause the test to freeze).
  • Choose Randomize Questions in Test Options OR in Test Manager (Creation Settings--> Display) but NOT in both, as this will often times lock a student out of an assessment.
  • Create Pools of Questions and build your tests with random sets from the pools; however, DO NOT also randomize the order of the test questions.
  • If you do set your test questions to be displayed One at a Time, do not select the Prohibit Backtracking option. Otherwise, students are encouraged to click the browser's Back button, resulting in an error.
  • Give students a wide window in which to start the test.  Discourage situations where students all must start the test at the same time.
  • Break up large tests into smaller tests.  If you want to give a 2 hour test, break it up into several smaller tests (we recommend that timed tests not be longer than one hour).
  • Break essay questions into their own tests.  Essay questions increase the risk of browser timeout due to inactivity.  Minimize the problem by having essays reside in their own test, or consider moving the essay portions to an Assignment.
  • To avoid loss of grades, after assessment has been released to students, avoid any and all configuration changes (e.g.: changing point values, changing names of exam, changing names of exam in grade book, adding or subtracting questions, etc.).
  • Avoid setting an assessment to open in a new window as this tends to introduce user navigation errors and browser setup issues.
  • Avoid requiring students to use other software or browse other websites to find assessment answers. Accessing other applications/websites often interferes with the correct functioning of the assessment area.
  • Avoid releasing an assessment to students until you have attempted it yourself (using your "guest" student account).
  • Give very clear instructions before each assessment and try to be consistent in your test design and deployment.
  • At beginning of semester create a simple practice assessment containing question formats you will be using throughout the course. Allow your students to take it multiple times so they become acclimated to your test deployment style. This should help them understand and overcome any technical problems and questions before taking a graded assessment.
  • To make your tests more secure (prevent copying/pasting, printing or accessing other programs), consider setting up tests to require that students use the LockDown Browser software.

* Due to the vast differences in user skill levels, workstation setups, web browsers, and Internet Service Providers you will experience some students having technical difficulties. These issues will require you to use the Clear Attempt function and deliver assessments in other methods from time to time. However, if you follow the recommendations in this document as well as having your students follow the Student Assessment Recommended Practices then most technical issues can be avoided.